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Our Opinion: A sweet plan

April 13, 2001

It is good news that efforts continue to make sugar cane a viable crop in the Imperial Valley. We are even more pleased to hear that those proposing sugar cane crops for the Valley have much larger goals. It is that kind of thinking that brings about the economic development so critically needed in this area.

Paul Sebesta, director of the University of California Desert Research & Extension Center near Holtville, went before the IID board recently to request funding for more sugar cane research. The board showed insight in noting that Sebesta's proposal is a good one and ultimately awarding money for the research.

Sebesta has a vision for a new type of agriculture in the Imperial Valley, and while it may only be a dream, progress starts with dreams. It was people of vision who came into the Imperial Valley desert and saw a future in which a dry desert could be turned into a fertile agricultural center. It took a great deal of money and time, but they persevered.

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Sebesta and those working with him have laid out a plan to make their vision come to fruition. They have said that based on research, they know sugar cane can be a viable crop here. They just have to determine what type of sugar cane is best to grow in the Imperial Valley and want to come up with a breed of cane that is special to the conditions of the Valley.

They are looking at the building of a renewable energy plant that also would be an ethanol plant. The byproduct of the sugar cane, which means all the refuse after it is harvested, could be gathered and used as an energy source and a source of ethanol, a fuel additive used in California.

Sebesta has said such a facility could create as many as 300 jobs. It will take money to build such a plant and Sebesta seems confident it would be possible through private investment to raise the money. He told the IID board a plant could be built by the 2004.

We see few negatives to this project. The Valley could end up with a key crop that would lead to a large number of jobs and create a new revenue stream for the county.

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